Reporter Andrea Weigl, who is on maternity leave following the birth of a daughter, writes:
Soon after I returned from the hospital with my daughter, I reached out to local experts for advice on what new moms should be eating to stay healthy but also to eventually lose their pregnancy weight. I also asked if there was any special advice for breastfeeding moms.
Universally, the experts said new moms should not restrict their eating for the first four to eight weeks after childbirth.
“This time should be more about focusing on taking care of yourself and the baby, not worrying about fitting back into all your old clothes,” says Shelley Wilkins, a registered dietitian at Wakemed Hospital.
Both Wilkins and Natalie Newell, a registered dietitian at the Rex Wellness Center of Wakefield, offered this general advice:
• Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts, carbohydrates for energy and mood elevation and protein for healing and muscle preservation.
• Limit consumption of processed foods.
• Strive for three meals plus one to two snacks per day. Wilkins adds: “I would try to avoid letting yourself get too hungry, which can cause bingeing on unhealthy foods and increase stress and fatigue.”
And when it’s time to start focusing on shedding pounds, Newell offers this suggestion: “It is a great idea to meet with a registered dietitian and personal trainer so they can help develop a healthy plan for you when you are trying to the lose the pregnancy weight.”
When a new mom does start trying to lose weight, she should aim to lose one pound a week. Wilkins offers these guidelines: a formula-feeding mom should consume between 1,500 and 2, 200 calories a day depending on her activity level. A breastfeeding mom can consume 2,000 to 2, 700 calories per day. If the breastfeeding mom loses more than a pound per week, she should eat another snack during the day.
For a breastfeeding mom, Wilkins says, the #1 priority during the first two weeks is protecting and increasing her milk supply. To do that, she needs to rest, drink a gallon of water a day and breastfeed on demand, between 8 to 12 times a day. Breastfeeding moms need to consume more calories, about 500 to 600 more calories a day. And they require additional calcium, about 1,000 mg, and Vitamin D, at least 400 IU. (My doctor and the lactation consultants at my pediatrician’s office recommended I continue taking prenatal vitamins and add fenugreek and alfalfa supplements daily to increase milk production.)
Sheri Taylor, a nurse and lactation consultant at Rex Hospital, shares this word of advice on what not to consume: “Don’t overdo drinks with caffeine, which will cross over into breast milk. Alcohol, too. If you’re going to have a glass of wine with dinner, breast feed first.”
Taylor adds: “Breastfeeding moms tend to lose a pound or two a week during first three months without even trying.”
I so hope that is true but I suffered a setback in the last week. In the first two weeks after returning home, I lost 21 of the 28 pounds that I gained while pregnant. In the last week or so, I’ve put three to four pounds back on. I know exactly what’s to blame: my inability to resist all the wonderful baked goods that friends have brought us. Who could resist strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, lemon almond cake, thumbprint cookies, cherry crunch cake and leftover Halloween candy? After not being able to indulge my sweet tooth because I had gestational diabetes while pregnant, I didn’t resist these treats.
But now I’m going to recommit myself to getting my sweets fix by eating more fruit. And I’ll try to use a lesson I learned from my diabetic diet: that a square or two of high-quality dark chocolate can satisfy my sweet craving with fewer calories. That or a serving of sugar-free chocolate pudding. I hope to get back on track.